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I live in the north of England (where it's fairly wet) and have a section of lawn near a fence that is quite mossy and boggy.

I cannot put any drainage pipe in, because the only place to run the water would be into the next door neighbour's driveway ... the run-off water already heads that way but to put in deliberate pipes would not be a good idea.

It has been suggested that I plant a line of shrubs or bushes along the fence line to help dry out the soil.

I have talked to the local gardening stores (who were not very informative) and searched on Google (but I don't know the right search terms).

What I am looking for is a plant that grows no more than 6ft high, preferably 3-4ft and likes water. The current suggestion is a large number of different colored heather (which so far is looking possible).

Update: The site is along a fence line. Width is anything up to 18in or so. It gets the sun from early morning till late afternoon. Not sure about the soil acidity at the moment. It can be built up if needed. I would classify the soil as very soft and damp for most of the year.

Update #2: Width could be wider if I can get a better looking border. The reason the lawn is wet is that any rain (and we tend to get a reasonable amount) falls on the patch of grass outside my fence (public land) which then flows down onto my lawn and then off to the neighbour's. My lawn is flatter and hence the water pools there. The sewers and fresh water supply pipes are far enough away from the wet patches and should be fine, I have recently had the plans from the council detailing where they are. The area does begin to dry out if we have several hot days in a row, so I think that if we actually get a summer it might dry out completely.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Odd suggestion, Heathers - both Calluna and Erica like open, sunny situations, in well drained soil, but which isn't drought prone. That's not the same thing as a permanently wet and boggy situation, so I wouldn't recommend either family of heathers for this situation.

I don't know whether you can make a border along there, and if you can, how deep it could be from front to back, but as you've got this nice, wet, boggy area, I'd suggest you use plants which love that and create a mixed border with them.

Suggestions include: Gaultheria and Andromeda (both shrubs) but the latter can only be used if the soil is lime free, or acidic in nature. Perennials which would do well in such a situation are: Ligularia; Astilbe; Darmera; Gunnera (gets really large); Hosta; Persicaria; Rodgersia; Trollius; Zantedeschia aethiopica 'Crowborough' (this one's hardy outside, unlike other varieties of this plant); Filipendula; Cimicifuga; Lythrum; Primula; Lysimachia; Caltha. Some of the sedge type grasses will work there too, have a look at Carex and Cyperus varieties. Also 3 ferns will like that situation: Matteuccia; Onoclea; Osmunda.

Some of these will require more sun or shade than others, so bear that in mind when considering choices. There are some smaller Salix (willow) varieties that will grow well there, but most of them tend to spread rapidly below ground, so it may not be a good idea to use any of them if the border isn't large.

UPDATE: I see your comment says 18 inches depth to the area - that makes an attractive, varied height mixed border difficult to achieve because all the plants will be in a row, so would be useful if you could widen the border along there. Salix (willows) soak up a lot of water - but all would need much more space than that because of their rapidly increasing roots.

I'm wondering why that area is so wet - if it's lower than the rest of the garden, then maybe that's why, but is it possible you've got a leak from a supply pipe, or from the sewer system, or it's sitting over a spring of some kind. If you've not done so already, might be worth investigating why that area is so troublesome, if it's the only spot where this happens.

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Andromeda grows quite well in an alkaline bog/wet area where I am. And, surprisingly the Clethra flowering shrubs do very well in wet/boggy. Trollius as well, the key seems to be roots with access to water but not waterlogged so plant high. – kevinsky Aug 28 '12 at 16:55
Hmm ... thanks for the list of suggestions. Seems I have a lot of reading to do. I have updated my question with additional information about the location and size limits. – Andrew Norman Aug 29 '12 at 8:03

The key to what you plant in this area is the condition of the soil (other than "wet feet.") In addition to soil pH, is it sandy, clay, loamy soil? Would there be a way to berm up the soil giving you additional height along the fence line and more options for varying textures and seasonal displays? 18" width, depending upon the length of the space, is plenty for accent, or anchoring shrubs with mixed perennials in between. I like to make my beds bird and pollinator friendly which usually means a focal point of some kind for the birds to bathe and the bees to drink. The differences in height and texture of the plants selected will mitigate "long views" into the neighbor's driveway, contain the space, solve the boggy issue by building up the soil slightly and create a new feature in your yard good for aesthetic and environmental appeal. Once you have determined the baseline for your soil, select plants that don't mind "wet feet" and plenty of sunlight. Give the plants plenty of room, be patient, and edit your list. Simple for such a small area is better. Good luck! It sounds like solving this "problem" could be a lot of fun.

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Boggy conditions plants will not dry out the bog. They do use some water but will not alleviate the boggy conditions. If (by miracle) the bog plants did dry out soil, they'd die and you'd get bog conditions again from the run-off. Could the council be persuaded to fix drainage on the public land because it's inundating private property?

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